Sunday, March 10, 2013

Promoting real-time communication in a mooc

As they are now moocs rely entirely on asynchronous communication.
Real-time one on one communication is obviously important for education and the educational experience.
Beyond the material of a mooc, students get to be part of a global community.
Student recognition and acceptance of a global community is an amazing side effect of a mooc.
Real-time audio and video communication within the community would make that even stronger.
In response to this Google and Coursera are teaming up to add Google+ Hangouts inside Coursera classes.
The impmooc was the first class to introduce a simplified scheduling tool in the course.
I tried it out for the first time on Saturday and scheduled a Google Hangout.
Ten people responded immediately. 
In the hangout there were people from South America, Texas, Russia, and Canada. 
The world was immediately represented on my screen. 
It was a wonderful experience.

The challenge is teaching students to use the service and showing them how to use it best.
The first task was simplifying the instructions on how to schedule a hangout.
I rewrote all the scheduling instructions following the IBM globalization style guidelines.
I created a Youtube Video demonstrating how to schedule a Google+ hangout.
The video's view count is rising regularly, so people are watching it, which is good.

Since there are so many uses for this tool and it has such deep capabilities people seem to be intimidated by it. 
I think the best way to encourage them to use it is to propose a single use case to the students.
What should we propose there are so many options
  • Freeform social mingling
  • Language based mingling
  • Software study groups
  • Topical conversations
While all of these are great, I think it is best to focus on why the students are really here, to learn from the videos. 
I will teach them to create a hangout where they watch the class material together as a group. 
We can suggest numerous ways to organize groups, by language, by software, or by location.
The proposal I will give them is to create a hangout and watch the material videos together while taking notes and discussing fine points.

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